Mumbai: Metro trains can reduce congestion on roads, shows an analysis of Uber Movement data for Bengaluru and Hyderabad. However, ensuring first- and last-mile connectivity to stations remains crucial for the success of mass rapid transit systems.

Although Bengaluru Metro or ‘Namma Metro’ began operations in 2011, the two major routes—Purple Line and Green Line—were completed only in April 2016 and June 2017, respectively. Travel time along the adjoining roads came down after the completion of both lines, shows analysis using Uber Movement database, which provides anonymized, collated data of rides on its platform since 2016.

The completion of the Purple Line (west to east) had a visible impact on road traffic along the Vijayanagar to Indiranagar corridor, while the Green Line (south to north) reduced travel time between JP Nagar and Malleshwaram.

The reduction in road travel time along the metro routes is more pronounced after a span of six months, with the JP Nagar-Malleshwaram route witnessing a 9% reduction in travel time.

The delayed impact is not surprising, given that the initial patrons of the Bengaluru Metro were those who already used other means of public transport. The switch from privately-owned vehicles to Metro usually happens with a lag, said Sonal Shah, an expert on integrated public transport and senior program manager at the Urban Works Institute, New Delhi.

The apparent switch from private vehicles to public transport was also witnessed in the national capital after the introduction of the Delhi Metro in 2002, shows a study by Deepti Goel and Sonam Gupta, published in The World Bank Economic Review. The pace of new private vehicle registration also fell in the years following the launch of Delhi Metro.

However, it is not clear how far the Bengaluru Metro can alleviate the city’s traffic woes. “The growth being experienced by Bangalore city is radial in nature, while the Metro routes are linear (West to East, North to South). Therefore, the Metro may be unable to service the growing demand for transport in the city," said Deepak Baindur, senior technical adviser (urban transport), GIZ Bengaluru.

The same is also true for the Hyderabad Metro, which was opened to the public in November 2017. While analysis shows that travel time along adjoining roads declined marginally after the introduction of the Metro, substantial impact might not be visible until the entire stretch of planned Metro is opened.

Given that the Metro routes in Hyderabad are not along the normal traffic patterns in the city, the impact may not be as much, said Sai Ratna Chaitanya, associate, Institution for Transport and Development Policy, India. The Metro does not yet cater to Hi-tech city, which accounts for substantial traffic flow.

Apart from the Metro network, first- and last-mile connectivity also impacts the success of mass transport systems. For instance, feeder bus systems to Metro stations, pedestrian and cycle routes are important aspects that determine the success of any Metro system, said Megha Kumar, a PhD student at Mcgill University studying Bengaluru’s traffic network. Additionally, the adoption of the Metro in Bengaluru has been impeded by inadequate parking facilities. Moreover, the trains currently have three coaches, and are extremely packed during peak hours.

This shows that an integrated approach to transport in cities, backed by studies on commuting patterns, is crucial to resolving the transport woes in Indian cities.

This is the concluding part of the two-part data journalism series on metropolitan traffic in India. Click here to read part one.

Arjun Srinivas is a fellow, working with Mint as part of the Hindustan Times–Mint– How India Lives Data Journalism Fellowship.

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